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Sony Michel vs. the Chiefs defense will be the matchup to watch in the AFC Championship

Michel went off on the Chargers’ defense, and they’re actually good. The matchup against the Chiefs will be favorable, and one to keep an eye on.

Divisional Round - Los Angeles Chargers v New England Patriots Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The AFC Championship is set after the Chiefs and Patriots both made easy work out of the Colts and Chargers, respectively. It’s not a shocking matchup the way the regular season unfolded, and it should be one of the more entertaining games we’ll see this postseason.

The quarterback matchup here is going to be talked about all week, as if Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady are playing some sort of one-on-one football that doesn’t exist. But based on their regular season resumes, as well as single-game playoff samples, the most intriguing battle could come elsewhere: between the Chiefs defense and Patriots rookie running back Sony Michel.

Michel absolutely wrecked the Chargers, putting up a first half that would have been his best overall game.

Coming into the postseason, the Chargers were thought to be the most balanced team left. They’ve got studs on both sides of the football, but especially on defense with guys like Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram.

That didn’t matter, as Michel had 16 carries for 105 yards and three touchdowns in the first half. Michel was running with a patience behind an offensive line that was absolutely dominating the Chargers’ defensive front:

Michel finished the game with 129 yards and three touchdowns. His second half was clearly not as prolific, but after the 35-7 halftime score, I think everyone was ready to just pack this one up and move along. I mean, odds for Pats-Chiefs came out midway in the second quarter:

The Chiefs basically gained an entire half-day to prepare for the Patriots because of how quickly the game was over, and they could use it. However ...

The Chiefs defense is coming off of one of their best performances of the season.

Some idiot wrote about why Colts-Chiefs could have actually be a good game, and he was wrong. The Kansas City offense wasn’t at its best, but it still totaled four touchdowns and 31 points against a defense that last allowed that many points in a game three months ago.

The surprise came with the defense, which held the Colts to 0-for-9 on third downs, just 176 passing yards, and 87 rushing yards. The Chiefs also won the time of possession battle by nearly 20 minutes.

But if we’re going by body of work, the Chiefs defense has been BAD this season. That’s reason for concern.

The Chargers had a top-10 rushing defense this season, and Michel still managed to put up nearly 130 yards and three scores. The Chiefs’ run defense was 27th, allowing 132 rushing yards a game and 5 yards per carry.

Between their poor run defense, and allowing the second-most passing yards in the NFL, it’s scary to think about how bad the Chiefs might be without a historically great offense.

But they have some playmakers on defense, most notably defensive tackle Chris Jones, who finished the year with 15.5 sacks. His athleticism helps him be effective at both getting to the quarterback and filling holes to stop the run. He can’t do it alone, though. To have success against Michel and the Patriots, the Chiefs are going to have to own the time of possession again.

Otherwise, it could be a long afternoon in Arrowhead Stadium for that defense.

Running the football is going to be a big piece of the Patriots’ plan against the Chiefs.

These big, explosive offenses are the most fun, and Rams vs. Chiefs Part II would probably make for the most fun Super Bowl. But the Patriots are going to do their best to play spoiler and slow the game down with Michel.

The way the Patriots offensive line bullied the Chargers on Sunday, nobody should be surprised if it happens. After all, they are still the Patriots, whether or not any of us like it or not.